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How vital services are helping perpetrators of domestic violence turn their lives around

A Devon man who went to prison for assaulting his partner has spoken candidly about a service that helped him turn his life around.

David (not his real name) was jailed after being convicted of Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) for an incident which left his victim with severe injuries.

He was offered support from a local independent charity called Splitz which provides domestic abuse services in the county.

David said the support he received from Splitz was instrumental in addressing his offending and said he would never forget how much they helped him. You can read his full story below.

Splitz is one of a number of support services funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – which has also recently been granted a further £417,395 to help perpetrators of domestic abuse confront their behaviour and break the cycle of criminality.

The multi-agency project will work with those who commit domestic abuse as well as their families. It will also help some key workers and members of the public to identify the signs of an abusive relationship and give them the skills to help intervene.

The project proposal was submitted by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and will see the office work alongside long-running domestic abuse partners Cornwall Council, Plymouth City Council, Torbay Council and Devon County Council.

As well as £417,395 from Government, the project will also benefit from £215,959 in match funding from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and local authority partners.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Alison Hernandez, said: “The work and support on offer to those who have suffered domestic abuse is vital, but we will never break the chain of this violence without also focusing on the perpetrator.

“Intervening early and working with them and their families is crucial to helping them identify why they act in this manner and what changes they can make to alter their behaviour.

“This programme will also help members of the public and local communities to spot the signs of abusive or controlling behaviour and build the trusted relationships needed to intervene.”

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for services that support victims of domestic abuse, said: “We welcome this announcement for funding.

“We have seen a rise in the number of incidents reported during the coronavirus pandemic and we are working very hard with our partners to ensure that victims of abuse are supported.

“It is also important that we work with perpetrators of abuse to help them stop their pattern of abusive behaviour.”

David’s story

David (not his real name) is a business owner who engaged with Splitz after an incident with his partner. He says he will never forget how much the service helped him.

David said: “I’d been with my partner for a few months but it had been a very quick start to the relationship. We were both drinking a lot and most of the time having a lot of fun together, though looking back alcohol was clearly a problem.

“One night we had shared a large bottle of spirits together and were out for the evening. We were both very drunk. As we were leaving we started arguing and she said something that obviously touched a nerve and triggered me, though I can’t remember what it was.

“I hit her several times and kicked her while she was on the floor. This all happened outside in public and she had to be taken to hospital by someone who witnessed it all. Her injuries were very severe.”

David was convicted of Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) and served three-and-a-half months in prison with a further three-and-a-half months on an electronic tag.

However, in the time between the offence and his conviction, he knew he needed to seek help for his behaviour.

David said: “I remember waking up the morning after it happened and having to come to terms with what I had done. It terrified me, I can’t put it in to words really, just sheer panic.

“I witnessed domestic violence as a child and dealt with the aftermath of my mum being abused. My dad went to prison on more than one occasion when I was young.

“But I remember comforting my mum after these incidents and never, ever thought I would be the kind of person to do something like that myself.

“I was really scared about what I’d done so I started Googling for help, I knew I needed to do something. I came across Splitz and made an appointment with them. Just before the appointment I started to worry because I wasn’t sure if it was just a service for victims of domestic abuse, but after speaking to them again they assured me they could help.”

Prior to engaging with Splitz, David had been paying a psychologist £80 an hour in the hope of addressing his behaviour.

He said: “I got so much more from Splitz. They just heard me out and listened.

“Around the time of the incident I was getting a lot of abuse from people online who knew about it, a lot of which I deserved. But with Splitz there was no judgement, it felt like a safe place where I was able to open up properly.

“We spoke about the offence itself, what had triggered that behaviour and where those emotions had come from. We went deeper and deeper week by week.

“I know deep down I am not a bad person, but my sessions made me realise that anyone can do bad things. I accepted responsibility for my actions and confronted what I had done.

“It was very tough and painful but really needed to be done. Immediately afterwards you would notice the change.”

After engaging with Splitz for around six months, David was convicted and sent to prison.

He said: “It was weird, I really felt like I was going into prison as a different person.

“The whole process was painful and took me to some dark places but it was essential for me and I genuinely feel like a different person now.

“I will never forget how much Splitz helped me.”

Help for domestic abuse

If anyone is experiencing domestic abuse, support is available through any of the following: